Thursday, July 06, 2006

2008: The First Internet Presidential Election?

Bob Schieffer of CBS News made a good point when he hosted "The Charlie Rose Show" and interviewed Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. He said:
Successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times.

  • The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering.

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio.

  • John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.

  • And with an issue as eye-glazing as the deficit, a wacky, jug-eared Texan named Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote. He did it with "Larry King Live" and an 800 number.

Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of "early money" is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That's why all the talk of Hillary Clinton's "war chest" making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around. Money from wealthy donors remains the essential ingredient in most state and local campaigns, but "free media" shapes the outcome of presidential races, and the Internet is the freest media of all.

Jonathon Alter wrote:
No one knows exactly where technology is taking politics, but we're beginning to see some clues. For starters, the longtime stranglehold of media consultants may be over [Yeah!!!]. In 2004, Errol Morris, the director of "The Thin Blue Line" and "The Fog of War," on his own initiative made several brilliant anti-Bush ads (they featured lifelong Republicans explaining why they were voting for Kerry). Not only did Kerry not air the ads, he told me recently he never even knew they existed. In 2008, any presidential candidate with half a brain will let a thousand ad ideas bloom (or stream) online and televise those that are popular downloads. Deferring to "the wisdom of crowds" will be cheaper and more effective [than focus groups and pollsters].

Open-source politics has its hazards, starting with the fact that most people over 35 will need some help with the concept [but this is easy to overcome].

Also, the Internet strips big shots of their control of the process [which is a good thing]. Politics is at its most invigorating when it's cacophonous and chaotic.

I began writing and speaking about the Internet in politics in 1994. I had a vision that is just now taking place. A vision where funds came from eager people wanting to join the process of electing their choice to the Presidency; where they could afford their contribution(s); where they could be informed of and join a regional rally or event; where they could research his or her stances on issues pertinent to them; where they could download photos, posters and campaign materials for themselves and their friends; where they could hear and see their candidate speak on various issues - basically what is happening now and can be seen clearly by reviewing the Edwards, Clark, Clinton, Warner and McCain websites.

The 2008 Presidential election cycle - now beginning in earnest - may be the first where the Internet is the key media factor. And using Schieffer's analogy, he who master's the media most effectively, wins.